Volume 20 Issue 2 A Journal Dedicated to Natural Dyes Spring 2016


Lurie Garden Pathway (detail)
Pamela Feldman
Lurie Garden Pathway (detail)
naturally dyed wool.
Photograph by
Larry Fritz


Production Dyeing with a Miele Wet Cleaning Machine
By Jane Porter

My first experiments with production dyeing began in 2000 using my residential Miele Novotronic washing machine. This small front loading machine was equipped with the ability to choose the temperature up to 190°F, the time of the washing cycle, and degree of agitation. I chose a gentle wash at 180°F for 30 minutes to mordant and dye fabric. The results were fabulous—even color throughout the silk fabrics. I had achieved a solid base of color for my backgrounds. But my line of natural dyed clothing grew in style and sizing, I needed to dye more fabric.

Tiger skirt
Pomegranate Chestnut base
Tiger skirt, Pomegranate Chestnut base
Photograph Copyright by Jane Porter

The best part about the Wet Cleaning machine is that you can set up to 99 individual programs for your dyeing needs. Every variable can be programmed. You can set up a pre-wash or scour cycle, followed by a mordant cycle and a dye cycle. You can also program each part of the dye process separately. For example, if you want to paint silk fabric or yarn, you can design the program to mordant the silk or yarn. Since each fabric requires different dye processes such as different temperatures, you can have separate cycles for wool, cotton or silk.

Excited about my home machine dyeing, I called Miele to see if they had a model with a larger capacity. They recommended the Miele Wet Cleaning Machine WS 5071. The machine was designed for drycleaners who want to be friendly to the environment. It uses water and nontoxic detergents specifically made for fabrics that need to be dry cleaned. It is a commercial model and requires three phase electric, which saves industry on energy costs.

Miele Wet Cleaning Machine
WS 5071
Miele Wet WS 5071 controls
Miele Wet Cleaning Machine WS 5071
Miele Wet WS 5071 control
Photograph Copyright by Jane Porter
Photograph Copyright by Jane Porter

The machine also has the capability of dispensing liquids at certain times during the program. This is a very important feature. Just like dyeing in a pot, you want the dye bath to be even if you are trying to achieve uniform color on the substrate. The machine has three dispensers for liquid. You can program the dispensers to slowly release scour, mordant or dye while the drum is rotating. The results will be an evenly dyed fabric with depth of color. What's great about this programability is that you can create complex colors that can be reproduced with ease.

Working with yarn is easy in the Wet Cleaning Machine. Cotton, silk, or wool yarns can each have a program to mordant and dye. The quality of the dyeing is excellent, because the dye really gets pushed into the fiber during the dyeing process. It saves on energy and water because more yarn can be dyed in a shorter amount of time using a minimal amount of water.

How to Think about Programing with the Miele

Temperature, Time, Agitation, Water Level, Spin. Using these factors, think about how you dye, and build a program to those specs.

  • Preparation/Mordant: Do you scour or pre wash your substrate? How long do you mordant? What percentage of mordant do you use based on the weight of goods?

  • Fiber: What substrate are you dyeing? If it is yarn, you don't want too much agitation. If you dye fabric, you can use a little more agitation. Wool fabrics want less agitation than silk.

  • Water Temperature: Take the substrate and the dye into consideration. For example, if you are dyeing with madder, the temperature will be different than for cochineal.

  • Spin Cycle: Does the substrate require a fast or slower spin cycle, or none?

  • Rinse: Do I want to rinse after dyeing? For example, as I was printing the fabric right after dyeing the background, I did not rinse.

  • Sample Program for Mordanting Silk Fabric

  • Pre Wash: Water level 3/4 full, temperature 100°F, gentle agitation for 5 minutes. Drain.

  • Rinse: Water level 3/4 full, 85°F, gentle agitation for 4 minutes. Drain.

  • Mordant: Water level 3/4 full, 170°F. Dispense mordant slowly while drum rotates. Hold the dye bath for 30 minutes with gentle agitation. Drain.

  • Rinse: Water level 3/4 full, 150°F, gentile agitation for 2 minutes. Drain. Gentle spin for 2 minutes.

  • The Miele Wet Clean Machine can dye up to 20 pounds per cycle and there are larger models available. When I dyed fabric, I cut it into specific lengths which are easier to dye than a long length. This worked out perfectly for the sewing contractor. In the fashion industry, contractors use a heavy paper pattern called a  Marker. The Marker is a layout of each pattern piece based on the width of the fabric. It is designed so that no fabric is wasted during the cutting. Lengths of fabric are stacked on top of each other; the Marker is placed on top of the pile, and multiples of pattern pieces are cut with an electric scissor.

    Orange printed fabric
    Orange printed fabric
    Photograph Copyright by Jane Porter

    If you are thinking of starting a fashion line or need to increase your production, this machine works well and has the flexibility to create what you want. If you want fabric that is more uneven in color, you can alter agitation. You can even do Shibori technique as well. Just tie up your fabrics and run them through the cycles. Dyeing with pigments and soy milk are also possible. I was able to achieve a subtle mottled look with dry pigments and soy milk using a gentle cycle with cool temperate. The possibilities are endless, and for me, I could not have achieved my goal of selling clothing to boutiques without it.

    Wattle, cohcineal lace flower ruffle dress
    Wattle, cohcineal lace flower ruffle dress
    Photograph Copyright by Jane Porter



         Miele Wet Cleaning: http://www.miele-pro.com/us/prof/products/194_15395.htm

         Fashion: fashion-incubator.com